Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recipe Review: Cooking Light's Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

If you know me, you know I can't cook. I can make awesome smoothies, excellent toast, rocking oatmeal, a decent salad with the dressing to boot. Other than that, I'm a failure. I once attempted a lowfat key lime pie that my dog wouldn't even try.

To the point: Cooking Light magazine had an interesting Cheesy Chicken Enchilada recipe that I decided to try.  I posted it on Pinterest as soon as I found it but didn't actually read the ingredient list.  It called for flour tortillas.  As a Tex-Mex purist, I don't do flour tortillas in an enchilada.  I substituted Whole Foods blue corn tortillas for the flour, which lowered the calorie count.

Image via
These were pretty easy to make.  The mixture itself was a breeze.  I bought grilled chicken breast (I seriously don't know how to cook a chicken breast) and just cut them into little pieces.  I sliced the onions, green onions and garlic and the rest of the ingredients. The most tedious part was warming the tortillas in a pan.

I assembled the enchiladas and while they cooked for 20 minutes, I made the suggested salad with greens topped with fresh pre-sliced jicama and mangoes from Whole Foods (my knife skills suck).

After topping the enchiladas with cheese and green onions and heating them an additional six minutes, I served dinner to the husband and sister with a bottle of Waterbrook chardonnay.  This fruitier chardonnay worked wonderfully to cut the creaminess of the cheese.

The end result was jawdropping.  They loved the enchiladas.  They really loved the dinner, lowfat cheese and all.  No one loves my food. Being so used to wonderful, grease-filled enchiladas I am surprised at how good these were.  The uber-light and fruity salad was a perfect complement and the juice was just right.

Having said that, I would have kicked the spices up a notch.  I don't miss full-fat cheese but these definitely could have used perhaps more garlic and onion.  I would also purchase a can of "hot" green chiles, not mild.  Definitely don't do these with flour tortillas like the recipe suggests.  Go with the corn for more texture and more authentic flavor.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

$14,000 a Year + 45-Plus Hours a Week = Your 1st TV Job!

I can always tell when graduation is upon us.  About this time of year, I receive a slew of email from soon-to-be May grads asking for advice and networking suggestions on how to break into the TV news and sports business.

The email typically has an optimistic tone.  I love it.  There is nothing like that naive enthusiasm a 22-year old who is about to "take media world by storm" has.  That enthusiasm usually turns into stone-faced sobriety when I share with said 22-year old (or the relative that is doing the work for him or her) just how brutal this business is.

Here is the advice I had for someone whose uncle emailed me more than two years asking for help breaking into the television news business.  It's disappointing his niece didn't have the initiative to get in touch.  Regardless, the  response I sent then pretty much holds true today.  There are a few things, however, I should update.

If you're a college senior asking about job opportunities in March with a May graduation on the horizon, you're already behind the game.   I feel, you need to have an internship in place by the first semester of your senior year.  If it's not for college credit, that's okay.  Volunteer one day a week somewhere.  You can put it on your resume.

In addition to that, you need to be submitting quality material to hiring managers that Fall.  Even if they are just "feeler submissions",  sending your work, writing the cover letters, working on that all-too-rare phone interview can only help and prepare you.  The more you do, the better you get.

I can't tell you how many aspiring TV journalists tell me "I want to be an anchor".  "I want to be a sideline reporter for ESPN."  "I want to be the next {insert network reporter/anchor here}".

You and almost everyone else wants that job.  That is an awesome goal to have and you can absolutely do it and be the best the person who has ever done that job.  I am living proof that you can have goals, reach them, create new ones and be happy doing so.  BUT, you have to work your ass off to get there.  When I tell wannabe network stars that I started out shooting, reporting, editing, producing and anchoring in two small markets, I am met with colorless, blank stares.

"You mean you shot with a camera?" they ask.
"Yes.  It IS television," I respond.
"What if you just got a manicure?" one May grad once queried.
"Girl, I couldn't afford a manicure," I deadpan.

That really happened.

Granted, quality news cameras are much smaller and easier to work with than the 40-pound behemoths I lugged all over Guam and Knoxville in the mid-90's.  The point here is, very few talented individuals start television careers at the network level or in a top 10 market.  Sure it can be done.  I work with an incredibly talented producer who got a job at my current station following his college internship with us but he is in the minority.  You have to be ready and willing to do a variety of jobs you may not like to get the job you want.  All that experience gives you credibility and will help you later on in your career.

And, yes, the money starting out isn't good.  Flat out it's sucks.  I had a friend who was a weekend sports anchor in a small market who lived in a mobile home and qualified for food stamps.  She worked 50 hours a week and made $14,000/year.  This was in 2009.   Competition is stiff and hiring managers will be quick to tell you there is someone out there who will do your job for less money.   The truth is, they're usually right.

I started my television career as an assistant sports producer at the great KHOU in Houston.  I was basically a glorified intern but I busted my ass to earn my $7 an hour.  I worked with the most awesome group of pros that I am still friends with and see in a professional capacity today.

I bring this up because television and sports journalism is a very small, big business.  Everyone knows everyone.  Really.  There is so much movement in the industry that the news assignments person that you couldn't stand could be the assistant news director or the network producer at a place where you're applying for your dream job.

I'm sure I've burned countless bridges in my career but I've tried my best to be a professional, treat people with respect and maintain relationships with former colleagues.

I bring this up because I've seen a slew of interns over the years that I wouldn't dare recommend to a hiring manager.  Sure, those interns didn't think they needed to impress me with hard work or diligence but they should have.  You never know who knows whom in this business.  We've had interns at my stations through the years who were awful yet put us as references on their resumes.  Former colleagues I've known have called me about them.  While I didn't say a disparaging word about these particular interns, I did politely suggest another candidate.

On the flip side, I've written graduate school letters of recommendation and given dozens of phone interviews for former interns who were just awesome at what they did.  They went above and beyond the call of typical intern duty at excelled at it.  They were absolute pleasures to recommend and it's thrilling to see them working and succeeding in this industry now.

You might not have the job you want but that doesn't mean you can't do it in some form or fashion right now.  If you want to be a news or sports reporter/anchor, do it.  Create a blog and develop a voice and some perspective.  Request a credential for a local high school or college basketball game.  Cover the game and create a multimedia feature story on a particular player or something compelling about the squad.  Put it on your blog and offer to link that story to that school's website or paper.

Start a video blog on YouTube.  Get on there and talk about various topics: the Saints bounty controversy, Tiger's comeback, etc.  Offer your unique insight on various topics.  This will help you get used to just "talking" in front of a "camera" while trying to be succinct and coherent.  (It's tougher than it looks).

All of this enhances your body of work and gives you an edge.  If you're a senior reading this and just starting to think about this now, you're a little late.  Get going on this TODAY.  Kick some ass tomorrow.